Court of Appeals Says University Boards Can Meet in Private

The University of Michigan Board of Regents and other public university boards may meet behind closed doors as long as they’re not taking formal votes. That’s under a decision handed down on Wednesday by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The closed-door so-called “informational” sessions prior to the board’s public meetings were challenged by The Detroit Free Press and The Lansing State Journal.

Attorney Herschel Fink says the newspapers aren’t ready to give up. He says the Michigan Supreme Court last ruled on the question in 1999.

“So, we’re going to ask the Supreme Court to take a fresh look and we’ll see where that goes,” said Fink.

A University of Michigan spokesman says the closed-door meetings allow board members to learn about complex and sometimes confidential matters before making decisions.

“It’s just important that there’s no decision-making, and this is mostly information-gathering on the part of the board,” said UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.

The Court of Appeals says the meetings do not violate the state’s open public meetings law because public universities have wide autonomy under the Michigan Constitution.